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White House Shooter Sentenced to 25 Years

The White House shooter was sentenced to 25 years in prison for weapons charges and for placing lives in jeopardy. Although Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 23, of Idaho Falls, Idaho was originally charged with attempting to assassinate the president, but the charges were reduced pursuant to a plea bargain, according to Reuters. Ortega-Hernandez's criminal charges are considered terrorism-related acts. Ortega-Hernandez's Defense Ortega-Hernandez fired shots at the White House back in 2011 because he was convinced that he was on a mission from God to assassinate President Obama. While it was speculated that the White House shooter would offer up an insanity defense, his attorney stated that at the time of the shooting, Ortega-Hernandez was under extreme depression and mental duress, according to Politico. Authorities state that Ortega-Hernandez believed President Obama was the "anti-Christ" and traveled to Washington, D.C. to kill him. However, Ortega-Hernandez's attorney said that his client was convinced that Armageddon was imminent and wanted to warn people about it. Perhaps evidence of Ortega-Hernandez's mental condition is what convinced a judge to give a slightly lighter sentence than the 27.5 years offered by prosecutors. Sentencing If Ortega-Hernandez had been charged with an attempted presidential assassination, he may have faced life in prison. However, the White House shooter pled guilty last year to weapons and terrorism charges. Under federal law, terrorism is defined as calculated actions seeking to influence or affect the conduct of government through intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct. The federal criminal statute includes attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon -- like Ortega-Hernandez's White House shooting. At the same time, if a person willfully and maliciously destroys or injures a U.S. dwelling or places another person's life in jeopardy, that person may be imprisoned for 20 years. Some of the White House shooter's bullets struck the presidential abode -- a bullet was also lodged in a window on the south side of the White House, according to Politico. Secret Service officers were stationed outside the building at the time of the shooting and were also susceptible to being shot. Considering these facts and other factors about the defendant, the judge sentenced Ortega-Hernandez to 25 years in prison. Although the case may seem closed for the 23-year-old, Ortega-Hernandez still has the option to appeal the federal judge's sentence, according to Reuters. Related Resources: Idaho Man Who Fired at White House in 2011 Sentenced to 25 Years (Roll Call) Man's Call to Shoot Obama is Free Speech, Not a Crime (FindLaw's Decided) Ted Nugent Gets Secret Service Attention Over Obama Remarks (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Secret Service Do Anything Illegal in Colombia? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Bride Asks to Withdraw Plea in Cliff-Push Murder

A newlywed bride accused of pushing her husband off a cliff last summer asked the court to withdraw her guilty plea. 22-year-old Jordan Graham was to be sentenced this week for the murder of 25-year-old Cody Johnson along a trail in Glacier National Park, Reuters reports. But now, it's unclear if the sentencing will proceed as scheduled. Newlywed Murder In December, Graham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Prosecutors claimed Graham deliberately shoved Johnson, her husband of eight days, off a cliff during an argument while hiking a steep trail at Glacier, then lied to investigators and tried to cover up the crime, reports Reuters. In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a first-degree murder charge, which requires premeditation and carries a mandatory life sentence. After striking the plea deal right before the start of closing arguments, Graham admitted her guilt to the presiding judge. She told the judge that her husband had grabbed her hand during the marital dispute and that she "just pushed his hand off and just pushed away." Sentencing Issues The general idea behind pleading guilty is to obtain a lesser punishment. In this case, Graham entered a guilty plea of second-degree murder to avoid a life sentence. Prosecutors also agreed to not discuss premeditation -- the critical difference between first- and second-degree murder -- at trial. But according to Reuters, last week (after Graham told the judge she pushed her husband), prosecutors brought up premeditation and recommended a sentence of life in prison. Graham's attorney says the "life in prison" sentencing recommendation and discussion of premeditation violated Graham's plea agreement. For that reason, Graham's attorney is now asking the court to withdraw her guilty plea. Request to Withdraw Guilty Plea A judge will typically consider several factors in deciding whether to withdraw a guilty plea, including whether the original plea deal was fair. In this case, Graham's attorney believes the prosecution's sentencing recommendation makes it impossible for Graham to be sentenced fairly for second-degree murder. Reuters reports he also asked the judge to rule on a claim of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge will also consider the prosecutors' rationale behind recommending a life sentence -- the seriousness of her crime, her lack of remorse and the possibility she might commit another violent crime -- and make a decision accordingly. Related Resources: Bride wants to withdraw guilty plea in man's death (The Associated Press) Why Do Guilty People Plead Not Guilty? (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is an Alford Plea? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is Pleading 'No Contest' Different From 'Guilty'? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Baby Left in Car for 5 Hours as Mom Drank: Cops

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested after she allegedly left her 2-month-old baby in a cold car for five hours to go drink at a pub. Police were summoned to a pub in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, after witnesses spotted an unattended infant in a minivan. The 2-month-old girl was only wearing a onesie and covered in a light blanket; the outdoor temperature was about 39 degrees at the time, according to The Express-Times. The infant's mother, Lisa Altif, 32, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. Child Endangerment Alleged Reports of children left in a vehicle in extreme weather conditions are far too common. For example, in the scorching summer heat, parents have left their babies in a hot vehicle to go gamble or take care of personal matters. For Altif and other parents leaving their children alone in cold cars, it could potentially lead to hypothermia. In Pennsylvania, people who leave their children unattended in vehicles for a long period of time can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Any caregiver who "knowingly" endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support, can potentially be convicted under the statute. According to police reports, Altif had been inside the bar drinking for at least five hours while her infant daughter was inside the cold car. The only time Altif left the bar was to smoke cigarettes on the patio, so it's unclear whether she checked on her baby, The Express-Times reports. Possible Punishment Child endangerment is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. So if the mom is convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. However, if there's a pattern of child endangerment, the charge can potentially be elevated to a third-degree felony. While Altif didn't get behind the wheel after she was drinking, police reports indicate that she had a BAC of 0.126 percent at the time of her arrest. If she'd driven drunk with a minor in the car, she could also have faced a felony DUI, which has stuffer penalties and more lasting consequences than a misdemeanor charge. In addition to child endangerment, Altif was also arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to The Express-Times. Her baby is now in state custody as authorities attempt to locate the child's father. Related Resources: Police: Mom Left Baby In Van For 5 Hours While She Drank In Bar (Philadelphia's KYW-TV) Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested (FindLaw's Blotter) Don't Leave Kids Alone in Cars, NHTSA Reminds Parents (FindLaw's Injured) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Should You Take the Stand in Your Own Defense?

To many criminal defendants, taking the stand to defend themselves seems like a righteous and principled choice. That may have been Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's reasoning last week, when the man better known as Osama bin Laden's son-in-law took the stand during his terrorism trial. However, other high-profile defendants like George Zimmerman have opted not to testify at trial. Should you be convinced to take the stand in your own defense? Support for Taking the Stand As Ghaith might have felt as he took the stand last Wednesday, there is a certain sense of respect or earnestness that comes with directly voicing your own defense. In fact, one defense attorney told the Portland Press Herald that juries often want to hear from defendants, and testifying "can go a long ways toward convincing a jury of their innocence." The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right to take the stand and the right to refuse to testify. Many defendants exercise their right to tell jurors what happened in their own words, offering emotional and factual details that could otherwise be lost. Reasons Not to Take the Stand Because it is a constitutional right, attorneys often cannot prevent their clients from testifying, even if it is a terrible idea. In some cases, even if a defense attorney is certain his client is very likely going to lie on the stand, the attorney may be ethically bound to allow the defendant to testify. Keep in mind, though, that in many criminal cases, it is neither advisable nor necessary for a defendant to take the stand because the prosecution has the burden of proof. Criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty and are not even required to present a speck of evidence in their defense -- much less to testify. When defendants do take the stand, it is a potential invitation for prosecutors to rip them to pieces during cross-examination. Even the most composed persons can become angry, blustering, guilty-looking buffoons when grilled by a skilled prosecutor. An equally skilled criminal defense attorney can advise you whether you should take the stand in your own criminal case -- advice that shouldn't be ignored. Related Resources: Al-Qaeda spokesman Abu Ghaith takes stand in own trial (BBC News) 5 Reasons Defendants Choose Not to Testify (FindLaw's Blotter) Fool Represents Self, Reported Guns Stolen with Fake ID (FindLaw's U.S. First Circuit Blog) Should You Represent Yourself in Court? (FindLaw)
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When Can Teens Be Tried as Adults?

When can teenagers be tried as adults? Teens are often responsible for serious crimes, and in many cases they can face the same punishments as adults. The decision to try a teen as an adult varies by state, but generally each state considers the following factors: 1. How Serious Is the Alleged Crime? Serious crimes committed by teens can mandate transferring their cases to adult criminal court. This transfer is called a juvenile waiver, and it typically won't occur unless a serious crime has been committed. For example, in Texas, a child who may have otherwise been tried in juvenile court may be tried as an adult for any felony offense so long as there is: Probable cause to believe the child committed the offense, and The juvenile court believes that the seriousness of the crime or the child's background requires adult criminal proceedings. Capital crime charges like first degree murder often make a teen eligible to be tried as an adult, but many states limit even these cases by the age of the child. 2. Minimum, Maximum Age Limits. For most states, minors may be tried as adults unless they are younger than a certain age. The majority of states will not allow a child who's 13 or younger to be tried as an adult. In California, for example, the minimum age in most cases for a transfer from juvenile to adult criminal court is 14. Teens 14 years or older are not automatically tried as adults in California unless they commit certain heinous crimes. Other states have a lower maximum age for children to be tried in juvenile court. New York has notably tried most 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for all crimes, even for minor offenses like shoplifting. The New York Daily News reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has plans to raise this age limit to allow more teens to be tried in juvenile court, but the issue is far from settled. 3. Judicial or Prosecutorial Discretion. Under many states' laws, a juvenile court judge must decide whether a case should be transferred to criminal court. In addition to a child's age and the crime's severity, a judge may consider the circumstances of the accused act and the child's home life. A prosecutor may also have the discretion to either pursue or decline to try a teen as an adult, much in the way they can drop charges against adults. Related Resources: Teens to be tried as adults for alleged 'heinous' Marysville kidnapping (Sacramento, California's KCRA-TV) 10 Illegal Activities Your Kids May Be Up To (FindLaw's Blotter) Man to Be Tried for Murder for Childhood Crime (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Blotter)
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What Happens After a DUI in a Foreign Country?

Getting a DUI in a foreign country is bad news -- just ask "Star Trek" actor Chris Pine, who had to pay more than $400 in fines and court costs after a drunken-driving arrest in New Zealand, Reuters reports. Although it's unclear how Pine's out-of-country DUI will affect him back in the United States, generally speaking, a foreign DUI can still have an impact after you return to your home country. Here are four things that could potentially happen after getting a DUI in foreign country: Your immigration status may be affected. Although foreigners who are first-time DUI offenders in the United States probably won't get deported unless there are other factors that make it a crime of violence or aggravated felony, the conviction could hurt their immigration status. For foreigners who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens, a DUI could be a roadblock to meeting the "good character" requirement. Expungement may not be an option. Expungement is a legal process that allows a past arrest or conviction to be erased from an individual's criminal record. Depending on the law of the country where your DUI conviction occurred, you may not be able to expunge the crime from your record. If the record isn't expunged, it can come up in background checks. It may impact sentencing for other crimes. Although the DUI occurred in a foreign country, that conviction or arrest can be considered if you're being sentenced for another crime in the States. Repeat offenders tend to get harsher punishments than first-time offenders, so a DUI in another country can still follow you back home and count against you. You may be barred from going back to the foreign country. Visitors with a criminal record may be denied entry into a foreign country. Even high-profile celebrities aren't immune from this: You may recall Mike Tyson was barred from entering the United Kingdom because of a rape conviction. Under UK law, travelers who've been convicted of an offense that includes a prison term of at least four years can potentially be denied entry. Several other countries have similar types of entry laws. Perhaps it's the anonymity of being in a foreign country that causes some people to forget to follow drunken-driving laws. If you're concerned about how a DUI in a foreign country will affect you back home, consult an experienced DUI attorney for more help. Related Resources: Chris Pine Drunken Driving: 'Star Trek' Actor Pleads Guilty To DUI Charges In New Zealand (The Associated Press) Victim of Crime Abroad? Here's What to Do (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Expunge Out-of-State Convictions? (FindLaw's Blotter) What to Do If You're Arrested in a Foreign Country (FindLaw's Blotter)
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